What does Ephesians 6:8 mean?
ESV: knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
NIV: because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
NASB: knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive this back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
CSB: knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord.
NLT: Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
KJV: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
NKJV: knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
Verse Commentary:
In this verse, Paul extends the principle he has just given for servants to all believers. Whenever a Christian serves with good actions, from a good heart, "he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free." Those who bless others will be blessed by the Lord.

This is sometimes confused with the idea of karma, though it is not the same thing. Karma is a belief in eastern religions that everything one does will be done back to them. More specifically, that a person's actions create a balance of good and evil which they must account for in their next reincarnation. This is not what Paul means. Instead, those who serve others are rewarded by the Lord. He may bless believers both in this life and the next for good deeds, though many rewards will only be known in heaven.

This verse also clarifies that the principle applies to any kind of worker, slave or otherwise. Many today enjoy employment which is voluntary. Yet, the principle of doing good for others, in the context of one's work, and for the glory of God, is still important. Godly work habits honor the Lord, show a positive example to others, provide a better work environment, and open opportunities to share Christ with unbelievers.
Verse Context:
Ephesians 6:5–9 gives specific instructions for both servants and masters. Servants should give a good effort, more than just for show, in all things they are required to do. This shows respect for their master, but it also provides a good example of one's relationship to Christ. At the same time, masters are explicitly told not to be abusive to their underlings. God sees masters as no better than those they command, and He is the ultimate Master of both.
Chapter Summary:
Paul gives specific instructions to children and fathers, stressing obedience and patience, respectively. He also directs servants to serve with sincerity and good intentions, as if they were working for Christ. Masters are warned not to be harsh: the same God who judges all will not give them preference over those they supervised. All Christians are called on to use the tools given us by God for surviving the attacks of the devil. These are imagined as pieces of a suit of armor. Paul ends this letter in his typical style, with prayer, blessings, and news about his plans.
Chapter Context:
Ephesians opens with three chapters of doctrine, followed by three chapters of practical application. This final chapter of Paul's letter focuses on specific ways Christians should live. It also summarizes the spiritual tools we are given by God, imagining them as a suit of armor. Paul pulls the same basic ideas from the rest of letter together, showing how Christians should live out their knowledge of what salvation in Christ really means.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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